Gantz asked Rivlin for the extension on Saturday night, claiming he was close to a deal with Netanyahu. But Rivlin responded the extension would not be possible under the “current circumstances”.
Israel’s president has turned down a request from Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz for a two-week extension to form a new coalition government.
The announcement by Reuven Rivlin means that Gantz and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have a midnight deadline on Monday to reach a power-sharing deal. If they fail, the country could be forced into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year.
Gantz was given the task of forming a government last month after a narrow majority of lawmakers said they were backing him to become prime minister. But in an abrupt U-turn, Gantz announced he would instead try to form an “emergency” government with Netanyahu’s Likud party to deal with the country’s coronavirus crisis.
Since then, negotiations on a power-sharing agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu appear to have stalled.
At the same time, Gantz’s Blue and White alliance has fragmented, leaving him with a shrunken version of his original party.
Rivlin’s office said he made his decision after speaking to Netanyahu as well, noting that the prime minister gave no indication an agreement was near. Rivlin said he would reconsider if both sides together requested an extension in order to finalise a deal.
If Netanyahu can win the backing of a majority of lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament, he would then get a chance to form a government. After recruiting one defector from the opposing camp, Netanyahu currently has the backing of 59 lawmakers. He needs two more to eke out a majority.
But if Netanyahu is unable to do so, the Knesset would then have 21 days to select an alternative prime minister. A failure to agree on a candidate would plunge the country into its fourth consecutive election in just over a year.